The number of people using the hypergrid-friendly OMC currently rose by a factor of five over the course of 2011, from just over 500 people at the start of the year, to 2,859 at the end. Meanwhile, the number of grids where the currency is available grew from 18 to 32.
The OMC, orÂ Open Metaverse Currency, is a virtual currency from Austria-based VirWoXÂ Â that can be used to buy and sell virtual goods on OpenSim grids.
The OMC is fully convertible, and can be bought and sold for US dollars, British pounds, Euros, and Swiss francs, and can also be traded for Second Life â€˜s Linden dollars.Â The OMC has an exchange rate of around 270 OMC to US $1.
The OMC isnâ€™t transferred from grid to grid — instead, itâ€™s kept in an online VirWoX account, requiring each transaction made inside a virtual world to be verified on their website. The status bar on the top of the viewers will show your current OMC currency balance if you are on an OMC enabled grid. A recent innovation — Pocket Money — allows hypergrid travelers to keep a portion of their balance in a fast-access account, allowing in-world purchases to be made without a second confirmation step. Â Pocket Money is currently available on the Island Oasis grid.
Grid owners who adopt OMC benefit by not having to deal with the practical — and legal — issues surrounding issuing their own currency. And residents on startup grids don’t have to worry about losing all their money if the grids close.
But the biggest benefit of OMC is that one universal currency can be used on multi-grid shopping trips â€” and merchants who accept OMC on hypergrid-enabled grids can sell to visitors from many different worlds.
As the number of hypergrid travelers has risen steadily last year, so has the interest in this currency.
However, the value of the in-world transactions hasn’t kept pace with the growth in users, possibly due to the problems with taking purchases from one grid to another as a result of content lockdowns on some grids. In addition, some merchants may be wary of selling items to hypergrid visitors who might then take them to foreign grids without tight content controls.
In fact, the total value of OMC transactions each month has only risen over US $600 once last year.
Meanwhile, new users continue to load their virtual wallets with OMC.
In fact, by the end of 2011, there was OMCÂ 677,564 — or US $2,509 — in user wallets, as avatars continued to buy OMC faster than they redeemed it.
This is a potential indication of unmet demand, and a sign that some merchants would do well to start experimenting with hypergrid sales in order to establish their brand identities early.